Benny, short for Bernice was a fitness fanatic. Every morning was an opportunity for a run in the beautiful forests around her home. Only a hailstorm or lightening could keep her off the path. She had bought the place for that reason and she loved it. Her home was tiny, she had to make sure her furniture was minimal. But what she had was comfortable and perfect for her.
Benny’s constant companion was “Treats”, appropriately named as treats were the little dog’s life. He was what she called a “Bitsa”, bits of this dog and bits of that dog! He had been trained to run with Benny, first on a leash tied to her belt, then beside her. Several times when it was raining, she had tried to leave him behind, but his pitiful cries always made her turn around and get him. He was so faithful and too adorable and Benny adored him back.
Sunday was the best day for a run in Benny’s mind. She could go further and still get to do what she wanted, the rest of the day. Benny had stocked her fridge and intended to make a large, vegetable lasagna and a sweet carrot and chicken soup for the week. It was this she was planning while listening to the rhythmic “thunk, thunk” of her feet on the hard sand. Great music led the way, a gift from a long-forgotten ex. The view was calming and the dappled sunlight tickled her skin with warm fingers. Taking deep breaths scented with pine needles, moss and damp – she flew along the forest path, loving each second. If she had known what was ahead – she would have turned back.
About 20 minutes into the run – she realised that Treats wasn’t next to her and stopped. “Treats” she shouted irritated at having to wait for him. “Treats – come on”. He caught up and the “Thunk, thunk” kept her company. She relaxed back into her run. Keeping on her usual path Benny was wondering if it was time to turn back. Often she would go too far and then the challenge of running back really was a challenge. She stopped to check her pedometer, Treats was snuffling around a bush.
Benny caught something large, black and very fast in her peripheral vision. By the time she turned, it had taken a chuck out of the back of her ankle and run off. “Hi hey” she squealed in shock. Treats flew past her in its direction. It shot off into the bushes followed by a hysterically yapping dog.
Benny took a step towards where she had seen it before she realised that she was bleeding. Looking down – she took a few seconds to process what she was seeing. It was so strange – there was now a spurting gap at the back of her ankle just above her shoe. Where her ankle was. Trying to take another step she sunk to her knees as the realisation sank in. She was wounded. Heart beating to hell – she took a deep breath and berated herself. “It’s just a squirrel bite, pull your shit together” she chastised herself.
“Treats” she yelled. The dog was barking mad and it was halting her ability to rationalise. “Shut up Treats” he did. Benny checked her ankle again. It was bad but probably not life-threatening. She tore at her t-shirt and managed to get a strip off while still preserving her dignity. “Like anyone is going to see my breasts on this remote path!” she laughed – a bit hysterically. “Actually that would be great. I will gladly show them some nipple if they helped me get home”.
Benny managed to stem the flow of bloody with shaky hands just as Treats panted his way back and licked the back of her hand. Cuddling the little dog, she tried to stand. She felt sick, it was probably the sight of her own blood. “At least I can walk” she told Treats who wagged his little tail and started to walk back along he path. “I must be in shock. I don’t feel any pain” she thought. Benny took one step at a time and realised it was slow but steady – she would make it back without too much difficulty.
Stopping to take a sip from her bottle – she poured some into her hand for Treats. They kept going. It couldn’t have been more than 30 metres from the first attack that she was bitten again. This time it scared the shit out of her and she screamed. Luckily this bite was close to the first and the animal just ripped at the t-shirt before she reacted. It couldn’t possibly be a squirrel she realised in a panic.
Horrified Benny now realised that she was being hunted. This wasn’t just a random bite. Terror set in and she tried to run. She got to the bend until it bit her again – this time on her right thigh. Needle sharp teeth sank in and pulled at the flesh. Agonizing pain radiated out from the bite and she fell scraping her palms on the path. Treats came around the corner and flew at the black shape.
It darted away but not before she got a good look at it. In the dappled sunshine and serene surroundings, she was shocked to see a rat! It was the size of a cat, dull grey and had red eyes. The eyes were the most terrifying sight after you got past the teeth. Pinpoints of red death. No mercy. No compassion. Madness. It was horrific. She wondered if it was rabid.
Initially the rat retreated and Treats turned and ran back to her wagging his tail. He never saw it slinking up behind him, slowly at first then like a streak of black lightening. Benny screamed but was too late. The rat jumped on Treats’s back, swung under him and ripped at his throat. Yelping he tried to lower his jaw and turn his head to bite back but couldn’t get to the rat. The rat was struggling but determined. Once it made a hole it got its teeth in and that was the end. Looking up at her – she could read the agony and shock in his sweet eyes. Screaming she tried to get to him. He managed a few steps towards her before collapsing on top of the chewing rat. His yelping turned to a squeaky, breathy wail. It didn’t last long.
“Leave him alone. You’re killing him” she howled but the rat continued. Feeling round in the bushes Benny found a short, sharp stick. Crawling towards the rat she tried to see through her tears to stab the bastard. Treats would be fine if she got him away now, she knew a good vet and… Wiping her eyes she realised in terror that the rat was no longer under Treats.
She picked up her little doggy, he was pumping out blood. She took her t-shirt off to wrap it around his neck all the while making comforting cooing noises. “Just hang in Treats-boy, mommy will make it all better. Just hang on boy” her devastation at losing her friend made her forget everything else. She clung to him and sobbed. At least it had been quick.
Slowly she became aware of movement again and looked up with a gasp. The rat sat watching her. His piggy red eyes stared and he seemed to be sizing her up. “You can’t have him” she screamed. “He’s my Treats”. Standing up Benny was immediately reminded of her wounds and nearly collapsed. She held the dead dog in the crook of her arms and the stick out in front of her as a weapon. Her hands shook and she realised that the weapon was not going to do much and she looked around for a more formidable one. Nothing. She took a few steps to her left careful not to lose sight of the path.
Backing away from the rat – she tried her hardest to walk upright but it was getting more and more difficult. Surviving on shock was helping but it would wear off sometime and then what… Not daring to turn away – she kept backing up. The rat stayed dead still following her with its fixed yes.
Once she lost sight of it Benny turned and tried to run away. It was more of a shuffle and a limp, but she was moving. She kept looking back but the shadows danced and jumped – it could have been anywhere. Something tickled her chest and she screamed. It was the wire for her music. Grabbing it she stopped it from falling by wrapping it around little Treats. No point listening to it when you need to listen for something hunting you. Sobbing, bleeding and limping along – she was grateful for her terror, it kept the pain and horror of what she was going through from totally overwhelming her.
Through her tears she saw it. It was sitting on the path up ahead, or rather crouching. It was going to attack. Benny felt her legs turn to water.
‘Hi hey” she screamed at it – taking a step forward. It never moved. “How the hell aren’t you scared?” waving the stick. It looked at Treats. “Oh no, no. You can’t have him I told you that?” she ran at it as fiercely as she could. But it easily backed away, she kept going hoping that it would just leave her alone.
This time when it nipped her she fell, it came back 3 times, 3 bites. For the first time she wondered, rather matter-of-factly if she would die. If not from fear and shock then from blood loss maybe or disease. Its amazing what goes through a person’s mind when they are faced with their mortality. Lying in the damp leaves she wondered how much of her the rat would eat before they found her. Allowing her mind to wonder – she teetered on the edge of consciousness. Her pain and fear wondered off in the distance and she thought about her parents, having children, sex.
Her thoughts kept marching through until someone tugged on her arm. At first she thought it was her mother calling to her. “Come Benny, come” she smiled and Benny smiled back. Mom tugged harder. “Mom you’re hurting me. Stop it”. It all came rushing back. It wasn’t mom it was the rat – this time pulling on her arm trying to get to Treats. Benny now understood what was happening and that she had to do something about it. Someone being hurt wasn’t far away it was her. The strange keening sound was coming from her and it brought her back with a speed.
Benny tried to pull away from the rat but it hung on. Spikes of pain shot up her arm and she welcomed it. Focus on the pain and the fear diminished. It was now about survival. Moving slowly – she let the rat keep chewing on her arm. The hole was about 4 cm already and was keeping Rattus busy. This is how she now thought of it, Rattus. Give it a name so that you remember the bastard years from now after you survive this she thought.
Slowly she took her right hand and made a loop out of the wires for her iPod. The first swing missed. Weeping softly in desperation she tried again. Missed. She tried again and was successful. Quickly she pulled it tight and the rat realised it was in danger. It swung back with such force that she nearly lost her grip on the now bloody wires. Benny realised that this was it – hang on or die. And she did. Blood spurted from her arm and both legs but she hung on. The rat changed tactic and charged for her, she swiftly pulled the wires back. Its eyes were inches away from hers and she could see beads of her blood on his whiskers. Its teeth snapped and ground in the air – inches from her cheek.
She pulled tighter and tighter. The rat slowed, its little back legs kicking pathetically in the air as she lifted it by the wires. “Bastaaard!” she screamed into its face. “Die you bastaaard!” she snivelled – all of her energy focused on killing it. The light in its eyes went out very slowly and its head lolled back. She hung on too terrified to take any chances. 1 minute seemed like an hour. Benny was shaking – her whole body almost convulsing. She collapsed – still holding the wires.
She must have blacked out again because the next thing she knew was that Treats was licking her face. No – not treats. It was the blood dripping from her arm across her eyes that tickled her cheek. Tears still falling – she picked up her dog gave Rattus one last kick in the head and stumbled away.
It took her just over an hour to get home and help arrived within 20 minutes of her first hysterical call. Benny moved away from the forest and still goes running. She now takes the memory of Treats with her and a taser.